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collection of 8 Longfellow letters to Paul Hamilton Hayne, leading southern poet

LONGFELLOW, HENRY WADSWORTH. Collection of eight autograph letters signed to Paul Hamilton Hayne

Cambridge, 1872-1880

8 letters comprising 26 pages. Beautifully presented in a fine crimson straight-grained morocco album with an engraved portrait of Longfellow by Hollyer, each letter mounted on a separate leaf. A lovely presentation.

This is a fine series of letter from Longfellow, the most celebrated and popular poet in America, and Paul Hamilton Hayne, the most famous southern poet of his era. In the first letter Longfellow tells Haynes that the promised volume of poems has not reached him. He assures the South Carolina poet that “this is of no great consequence, as you know already my opinion of your writings.”

The main sequence of letters is connected with Longfellow’s Poems of Places anthology. Hayne offered contributions of his own poems and suggested works by other southerners. Longfellow warns that “I could hardly use Mr. Simms’ war poems” and will limit them in number. He observes that he will use Timrod’s “Charleston” and Brownell’s “River Right” because of their poetic merit. In a postscript he notes that he has Hayne’s Legends and Lyrics and The Mountain of the Lovers but that those are not presentation copies. Hayne continued to send Longfellow material, and the poet sends thanks for Hayne’s “Tallulah” (noting that he likes the phrase “frenzied human hearts”), Legaré’s Poems, and Mrs. Reston’s Poems. In one letter Longfellow details the complicated publishing history of his most recent works. In his letter of November 22, 1878, Longfellow goes back to Hayne on a poem being published in Poems of Places, taking pains to get the attribution right. A month later Longfellow gets to the bottom of a mystery Hayne has raised—some anonymous poems sent to Longfellow prove not to have been by Hayne but rather by Hope, another southern poet. Longfellow regrets that he cannot accept Hayne’s invitation to visit without interrupting the printing process—
he is “anxious to roll this stone over the top of the hill.”

By the spring of 1879 the book is finished, and Longfellow is able to send a poetic thanks to Hayne’s wife “for the breath and bloom of Spring you send me in this little garland of jasmine. It is a pleasant and poetical reminder of sunshine in these gray and rainy days.” He adds that he will send some verses he has written for children and, at last, his Poems of Places “containing the southern States.” Finally, in 1880 he discusses Hayne’s poem “Snow Messengers,” his pen portrait of John Greenleaf Whittier, Hayne’s review of the poems of Mrs. Bates, and James Field’s medical problems.

This is a wonderful file of letters connecting the leading poets of their regions and demonstrating Longfellow’s wide-ranging reading, his writing process and editorial care, and his magnanimity.


HAYNE, PAUL HAMILTON. Autograph quotation signed, the poem “Friends.” Copse Hill, George, September 23, 1884. Approx. 3 x 5 in. Purple ink. Fine.

Hayne has written the poem “Friends”:

With numberless desert sands, all blurred and blind,
A single grain of perfect gold may blend;
Thus ‘mid life’s sordid ways, rejoice to find,
If so thou mayst, one golden-hearted friend.